A Marriage of Convenience: Musical Moments in Chinese Movies

Darrell William DAVIS

Research output: Book Chapters | Papers in Conference ProceedingsBook ChapterResearchpeer-review


This chapter begins with reflections on the musical “event,” as primary attraction to early film viewers, and potential destabilizer of narrative aims. This is followed by a brief overview of music in 1930s Shanghai, with the rehabilitation of popular music in a time of occupation. The marriage metaphor is used to engage dilemmas that Chinese cinemas faced in using music, sound, and images. When uniting distinct expressive registers—as storytelling waxes musical and music comes to a narrative function—integration becomes key. Integration seeks a mosaic of story, setting, and musical performance, yielding a perfect blend of camera, movement, and song. Yet integration has different meanings and functions. When a film offers songs or musical sequences that disregard “the integrated ideal,” it is seen as lacking. Songs may have their own inclinations, distinct from—but not necessarily in conflict with—the dramatic goals of the film itself. The chapter concludes with some brief examples of musical moments in contemporary Taiwan films.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Oxford Handbook of Chinese Cinemas
EditorsCarlos ROJAS
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages13
ISBN (Print)9780199765607
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2013


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